Roland Tanner: The 2007 rose-tinted vision for downtown Burlington should give us warning for the rose-tinted vision of the current City Council.

opinionred 100x100By Roland Tanner

October 3, 2018



In 2007, Bruce Krushelnicki, director of planning at Burlington City Hall, told us the Official Plan was “right up-to-date, which is a point of pride for us. I think we are the first community to establish an urban growth centre for our downtown.”

This single statement contradicts two articles of faith repeatedly made by the current council:

a) that the Official Plan was 30 years old and indefensible before it was replaced this year and

b) that the urban growth centre designation on downtown, which is the primary reason enabling over-development downtown, was not a city-made decision but was forced on us by the provincial government.

A volunteer on my campaign forwarded an article dating from about 2007* to me the other day. Published in the Toronto Star, it was illuminating to say the least. It details how things have changed in ten years, and how certain claims now held as unquestionable facts by council and staff in 2018 were viewed in a different way in 2007.

The article begins with a quote from Elizabeth Law, owner of Elizabeth Interiors, then located at Brant St and James St.

Plan B rendering

The removal of the Waterfront Hotel and replacing it with a larger development got a lot of public discussion. It was a group of residents – the Plan B team that put forward an option that would open up Brant street and create a clear view of the Pier and the lake.

“I believe that if you develop your downtown core well, then that’s your opportunity to individualize the community,” says Law. “The city planners have kept the downtown waterfront area wide open to make sure everyone can still see the lake and people love that. Even with all this development, the town has kept its history upfront and centre so it doesn’t lose its identity. Customers come into the store and say, `Isn’t it great that we finally have a downtown with character?’” (Elizabeth Law, Elizabeth Interiors, circa 2007)

But Elizabeth Interiors left downtown in 2017 and is now located on Fairview St. The location of the old store lies empty, and is unlikely to be filled as the building is approved to be demolished as part of the development at Brant and James which will see two highrise condo tower of 24 storeys built (the second tower may still be held to 17 storeys, depending on the decision by LPAT). As part of the redevelopment, two heritage properties are likely to be reduced to facades or lost entirely. So much for keeping “history upfront and centre”.

The Delta Hotel will give the city some first class convention space that could radically change the way the city is seen by the small corporate convention community. Add the Performing Arts Centre to the portfolio and the city has a good offering. Now to put a team in place that could work with the Delta Hotel organization.. We don't have that in place today.

On Lakeshore Road looking east from Elizabeth street – a different city. A 22 story condo, an eight storey hotel and a 7 strong condo south of the hotel.

The new Bridgewater development south of Lakeshore Road cuts off a large area which was formerly a ‘wide open’ view of the lake. The planned redevelopment of the Waterfront Hotel (formerly the Travelodge), shown to the left, will see a further major loss of space currently considered by most people to be part of Spencer Smith Park, albeit it is actually in private hands.

“Burlington has many ambitious plans on its agenda. With a current population of about 163,800, the target is 184,500 residents by 2021.” (Toronto Star, circa 2007)

Burlington has already surpassed this target with a population in 2017 of 187,000.

“A few blocks away, the Village Square is being enhanced by an Artisans’ Walk area of shops, restaurants and galleries. And there is a proposal to locate a McMaster University campus for 5,000 to 7,000 students across the street.” (Toronto Star, circa 2007)

There is no ‘Artisans Walk’ to my knowledge. The planned McMaster campus downtown fell through, and the business school was placed on the South Service Road instead.

“The Brant Street Pier, an S-shaped pier that will stretch 132 metres out into the water, is expected to be completed in 2008.” (Toronto Star, circa 2007)

People on pier between trees

The Pier

Years of legal and construction problems saw the pier at a standstill until it was finally opened in 2013. Planned daytime mooring for boats and a wind turbine were abandoned.

“[Waterfront revitalization] has also generated a lot of developmental interest. We’re seeing some condo development on the Lakeshore Rd. and we’re getting about a building a year. The third or fourth condo is just now being started. One was occupied this year, one was finished last year.” (Bruce Krushelnicki, director of planning for Burlington, circa 2007).

I was recently told by a council member that the number of highrise condominiums was very small, and that it was irresponsible to speak of a large number of towers as only a handful had been approved. Yet in 2007 the head of planning expected a new condo every year. On balance, it’s Bruce Krushelnicki who was closer the mark.

The Waterfront East condo/ hotel project, being developed by Mayrose-Tycon, has most of its approvals. “It’s been a long time coming because it’s complicated due to the shoreline,” Krushelnicki says. “About $1.2 million will be spent just on its stabilization. The site will also include open public space to continue the waterfront trail. They haven’t branded the hotel yet but it will probably be four-star.”


A controversial project from the very beginning – the Nautique was tuned down by the city, lost an appeal at the OMB. The developer has taken the appeal decision to an Administrative Review panel.

First approved back in the last century, the Mayrose-Tycon development, now known as Bridgewater, is finally taking shape on Lakeshore Road. Intended as a ‘landmark building’ which council argued would not act as a precedent for other towers, it has, as feared, set a precedent which has led to other nearby buildings being successfully appealed to the OMB. A public footpath, constructed around 2004, was open to the public for about a month before being closed and remaining closed ever since.

As we watch Lakeshore between Elizabeth and Pearl start to resemble the sort of urban tunnel we have seen in Toronto, I find it almost impossible to believe that we were assured, again and again, that that residents’ fears for downtown were groundless. We were told, by Councillors, that citizens who express doubts are ‘entitled’, ‘privileged’ or ‘NIMBYs’ for expressing concerns. But our fears have been completely justified. We now see a colossal 22 storey concrete and glass tower that fundamentally changes the nature of downtown forever. This building, more than any other in downtown Burlington, I see as an unforgivable error of judgement.

“Parking problems are an issue, like most communities achieving higher density. ‘Four years ago a multi-level parking lot opened on Locust St. and there is a proposal for another parking structure to open downtown,’ says Krushelnicki. New homes and condos have to provide parking of 1.25 spaces per unit. ‘That doesn’t facilitate the ordinary two-car family or visitor parking so that’s putting pressure on the downtown. We’re going to review that standard and it will probably increase.’” (Toronto Star, Bruce Krushelnicki, 2007)

If such a review ever happened, council decided to keep the parking at 1.25 spaces per unit. Current appeals and proposals brought to council by developers have tried to reduce spaces per unit to 0.9. While reducing reliance on cars is absolutely the correct objective for our city, we need the infrastructure and transit in place to make such a situation work. Without it, pressure on downtown parking, which many downtown residents already find highly problematic, will become far even worse. The planned additional multi-level parking facility is still a very long way off.

“When increasing intensification, transit-supportive development warrants a better bus service. ‘But to get to that you have to endure the congestion that is created by the intensification until the transit is built to meet demand. So the lag time is a funding lag’” [Krushelnicki] says.” (Toronto Star, Bruce Krushelnicki, 2007)

One of the new buses added o the Burlington Transit fleet. There were busses that had more than 15 years on their tires - those old ones certainly rattled down Guelph Line when I was on one of them.

One of the new buses added o the Burlington Transit fleet. How many and what size of bus will the city need to provide the kind of transit service thay are talking about?

This might be called the ‘if you make traffic bad enough, people will have to take the bus’ approach to city planning, still prevalent at City Hall. To me, it’s a highly problematic logic. In essence, City Hall is willing to deliberately create a city-wide problem and inflict discomfort on residents. Meanwhile we have had successive councils that simply do not believe in public transit, have cut funding, cut routes, and increased prices. The result is a fall in ridership by approximately 300,000 rides per year (15%) when other cities are seeing 100%+ increases.

Bruce Krushelnicki’s rose-tinted vision for downtown Burlington in 2007 should give us warning for the rose-tinted vision of the current City Council. Since 2007 too many things went wrong; too many businesses are leaving or being forced out of downtown; the waterfront is being irreparably damaged, over-development is here. All these things, we were told, would never happen.

It’s not good enough. We can’t buy this tired sales-pitch any more. Burlington needs change.

*The article was long ago cut and pasted into a Word document, and is no longer available at the Toronto Star website. It is undated, however it dates after the passing of the Places to Grow Act in 2006 and the then planned completion of the new pier in 2008.

Roland Tanner is a ward 2 city council candidate

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9 comments to Roland Tanner: The 2007 rose-tinted vision for downtown Burlington should give us warning for the rose-tinted vision of the current City Council.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Those who dwell on the past are left behind. This would have been the perfect opportunity for you to express your vision for a better Burlington, and what we can do so past mistakes are not repeated. Was this article just a history lesson? Sorry Roland, I can’t support a candidate that is stuck in the past with no plan for our future.

    • If this piece was the only thing I had published about downtown, you would have a point, however it’s not. I suspect you know that. I have published a wide variety of policy and commentary on downtown, summarized at

      However, a key foundation of most incumbent council-members’ platforms for re-election, and a key statement repeated again and again, including at the mayoral debates, is ‘we don’t have any choice’ and ‘the province makes us do it’.

      This article is about showing how that claim is simply not true.

      • Concerned Citizen

        Your reaction to my comments suggests that you may want to work on your emotional intelligence, something that the majority of our incumbents seem to struggle with. It is my opinion that Burlington needs council members that possess all essential communication skills. I didn’t refute your knowledge, please don’t negate my opinion and then beat your chest with your editorial accolades. However, your summary explained the intent of the article, maybe there is hope.Good Luck.

        • Tom Muir

          I didn’t see this comment before now, but your stinging criticism of Rolland’s piece, with an unfair and unfounded personal jab struck me.

          And then this reaction to his reply to your comment goes straight to questioning his intelligence, I was moved to think that you have a need to work on your own emotional hyperbolic side – “beat your chest with your editorial accolades”?. Sounds like you have an issue with Rolland.

          Over the top I think, so chill out. It reads like more personal attack.

          To me Rolland didn’t negate your opinion, he lightly defended himself from your unwarranted and rhetorical attack by adding explanation.

          And then added information about what the article was really about, which I agree with and it seems that you do too.

          I guess he could have added that sentence or two originally to make it clear, but I myself knew what it was saying.

          The story reflects the way this City works. Whatever they want to do they tell a story about it. If what they want to do changes, they make up another story.

          Each story always includes a bright and rosy future for The Plan of the day. 15 or 20 years ago The Plan was the Big Box stores and Power Centers, so everyone had to own a car and drive a distance.

          This is still in control of how we live and is growing – Clappison’s Corners in Waterdown. Power Centers. BIg bright future was the word. I think Krushelniki was around in this era.

          Then some New Plan comes along, based on disavowing the tenets and requirements of the Big Box Plan previously touted as the great way we had to live, and love it and look forward to the blue sky future.

          But now we have to give up all the standards of living and city that the Previous Plan was based on and provided. Now everything has to be standardized downward. We have to make everything fit the New Plan.

          Out with the car. Walk, bike and bus are the rosy future. Big Box still rules, so how do we walk or bike or bus there?

          How to get to Costco, Walmart, Cappison’s Corners, Terra Landscape, Connon’s Garden Center, Canadian Tire, and so on.

          The bus doesn’t go there. I need a case of beer, a lawnmower, lumber, groceries for a week, hockey for the kids, music lessons, all of this on Saturday, etc etc.

          How is this rosy? In fact, it isn’t the best of all possible worlds, but is being imposed by unthinking stupidity, by planners and politicians who tell us not to believe our eyes and ears.

          What we just went through trying to remake all this in a New Plan, the Official Plan, suggests that we don’t have a choice, the province is making us do it. It’s the monster called intensification.

          But this is all BS. The province says we can make our own rules in our own OP that doesn’t have to yield to this latest idea of need and bliss and what we have to do.

          I would venture that what Rolland is trying to tell us, and I have agreed with this for years, is that we can change this and make it in our own image, as a community.

          Don’t substitute one set of rose-colored glasses for the next set. I copy Rolland’s own words to conclude.

          “Bruce Krushelnicki’s rose-tinted vision for downtown Burlington in 2007 should give us warning for the rose-tinted vision of the current City Council. Since 2007 too many things went wrong; too many businesses are leaving or being forced out of downtown; the waterfront is being irreparably damaged, over-development is here. All these things, we were told, would never happen.”

          “It’s not good enough. We can’t buy this tired sales-pitch any more. Burlington needs change”.

  • Pam Casey

    Downtown currently is a place exclusively for the well to do residents of Burlington and without the changes proposed by the new OP, then it will remain that way. And there is nothing to invite the younger residents to downtown. it is know now as Borington to them. So with this new OP, it is time to update and invigorate the downtown. With the new buildings, i hope this brings services and reasonable retail so all residents can enjoy it.

    • Concerned Citizen

      Pam I disagree. Ward 2 (Downtown) probably has more rental units than any other area of the city. Many new immigrants live in Ward 2 and we aren’t all “well to do”. Ward 1 and Ward 4 have more wealth, no resentment just a fact. Nothing to invite younger residents? I guess you go to bed at 9:00 pm. The bars are full of younger residents enjoying the area, sometimes they show their appreciation for the core by vandalizing or relieving themselves on our properties. Expensive condos won’t draw younger residents, it’s not affordable. Reasonable retail? Again not affordable. The Waterfront holds many events, younger residents that don’t drive could take a bus, wait our transit service is deplorable, and by the way, transit is not part of this new OP. Borington, Jokeville, Flamboring, Grimesby, many younger residents have a negative name for the city they live in. Come on down and enjoy all the fun, you can support our panhandlers at our intersections, or cry with me when you witness the person in front of you at the checkout counting their change to pay for a loaf of bread. Ward 2 is not all rainbows and unicorns.

    • Tom Muir


      Can you please tell us what the changes are in the new OP that will undo your claim that downtown is exclusively for the well to do?

      The prices asked for the new condos will from what I have seen and heard, not change this one bit, but perhaps make it worse.

      The Bridgewater cost was about a million plus. How does this change things?

      The approved 24 stories have 10 foot room heights plus, at the heights – cost of the view.

      If you can explain yourself it would be of service to the discussion.

  • The current city council followed by, not lead, by an ineffective mayor has placed Burlington in an impossible situation with the proposed official plan. Further downtown intensification will be a disaster. Parking is almost impossible now.
    Although I bicycle from east Burlington in 25 minutes I have to go downtown alone. My wife can’t bicycle. The nearest Transit stop is well over 0.5 km from our house and when you combine that with scheduling and the lack of parking, we don’t go downtown anymore.
    We have lived in Burlington for 45 years and used to enjoy spending time at the park and coffee houses and shops nearby. Unfortunately, I don’t think that we have been downtown as a couple in over a year.
    There has to be a change in culture at City Hall. If the council and mayor are seen to be putting the city before the developers’ greed, then staff will have to follow. Let’s hope for change this October before it’s too late to save our downtown.

  • Eva Amos

    The solution to the parking allotment for downtown residents with only 1.25 spaces per unit appears to be, residents with two cars can rent a space in one of the downtown municipal lots on a monthly basis for their second car. This further cuts down on the limited parking already available for other residents of Burlington wishing to come and support downtown businesses, and restaurants. The downtown is slowly becoming a place exclusively for the residents of downtown.